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Library 101: How To Use Western Library In-Person & Online

A quick-start guide to finding library sources for your assignments.

Create a List of Search Terms (and Alternates) for Your Topic

How do I know what words to enter into the database's Search Box?

You may be assigned a topic to research or you may be asked to choose your own. Your topic will be your starting point in choosing search terms.note-taking icon

  • Types of search terms: 
    • keywords - a general list words related to your topic.
    • subject searches - words listed or bolded database lists
      • nouns - the names of something or someone -- people, things, places
        •  example - nouns for a topic in psychology: "depression,"  "bipolar disorder," "schizophrenia."
  • Make a list of main search terms 
  • Create a list of alternate search termssynonyms (different words that mean the same thing)
    • WHY? Different authors will use different terms that mean the same thing so If you can't find enough information using one search term, another
    • Consult a Thesaurus to find related or alternative words or synonyms.  

Basic and Advanced Searches

Will I find enough information just doing a simple search?
world wide web icon

  •  Very likely if your topic is broad.
    • Use the single Basic Search box you see when a database opens.
    • Type in a search term or phrase. Remember - nouns work best.

BASIC SEARCH STRATEGIES

  • Keywords - depression, bipolar,  autism
  • Phrases - "mental health" -  try enclose phrases in quotation marks if you get wonky results
  • Subjects - link from subject words in the database 

data iconWhy do I see 3 search boxes on a page sometimes? 

  • This is the Advanced Search tool
    • Advanced searching lets you combine search terms. (This is why making list is a good idea!)
  • When you get tens of thousands of results, advanced searching can help you narrow down the results
  • You may never need to use Advanced Search strategies, but it's an option if you are having trouble finding the right information.

Two Advanced Search Strategies to Try

  • Boolean Searching - separate search terms with AND, OR, or NOT
    • depression AND hopelessness
      • finds results with both search terms
      • narrows results
    • (mania OR insomnia) AND "depressive episode"
      • finds results for either search term specific to climate change
      • place the OR terms in parenthesis as a signal to the database to search variations on the similar concepts
      • expands results
    • depression NOT financial
      • finds results in mental health categories not the historical period of the Great Depression
  • Truncation - do one search instead of several by using the root of a word plus the * symbol
    • depress*
      • finds articles than contain words beginning with the root "depress" - depression, depressive, depressing, depressed, etc.

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